Probate is the legal process of identifying, validating and distributing the estate of a deceased person under strict court supervision. The probate process includes payment of outstanding debts to creditors and payment of unpaid taxes such as death and inheritance tax. A probate court is a special court that interprets the will and validates any claims on the estate made by third parties such as the creditors of the deceased. The court oversees the probate process right from when the executor files for a grant of probate, up to when it is granted, and ownership of the estate is transferred to the beneficiaries. Here towards the end of the article we will discuss what rights the beneficiaries have as these are one of the important pieces of information that needs to be explained to the family.
The probate process typically takes around eight months from start to finish. During this time, the validity of the will is verified, and an executor or administrator is named. If the decedent did not previously name an executor to their estate, the court would name one for them. At times naming an executor may be entirely seamless, while at other times the beneficiaries may have a dispute as to who is named the executor of the estate.
As with any legal proceeding, a number of legal factors are addressed during probate including: creditors are notified and legal notices are published, executors are informed of their fiduciary duties and are informed about creditor’s rights, property such as real estate may need to be sold in order to pay debts or in order to distribute assets amongst the beneficiaries, estate and inheritance taxes must be taken into consideration and assets may need to be transferred to beneficiaries among many other factors that need to be taken into account.
Probate is a highly complex area of law, whether you are an executor or a beneficiary, it would be wise of you to enlist the services of an estate planning attorney. As an executor, you have a fiduciary duty to adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards, all the while conforming to the law during the execution of your duties. Failure to carry out your obligations in the way that is expected can result in negative legal consequences that should be avoided at all costs. An attorney can advise you of your rights as well as ensure that you carry out your duties to the full extent of the law.
As a beneficiary, it is not uncommon to encounter inaccuracies to the will in question, unscrupulous activities or even poor performance by an executor or administrator. Furthermore, the process of probate is usually anything but seamless, whether you encounter disagreements with other beneficiaries or if you feel that you are somehow being cheated or victimized by other beneficiaries, then it is simply vital to retain legal representation during this highly volatile time in your life. Probate litigation is often a necessary tool to ensure that your rights are fully protected during the probate process. An experienced attorney will be your first line of defense from dishonest or unfair tactics which are aimed at your disadvantage. Since probate can become highly volatile, especially considering the amount of money at stake, having an attorney will ensure that your best interests are looked out for during probate. In closing, knowing the complete probate beneficiary rights in your unique case will help the whole process run smoothly.
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